Joe Nichols has seen rougher days in his past. He's gone through a well-publicized battle with alcoholism, and has witnessed several changes at his record company (Universal South, now Show Dog-Universal Music) over the years. However, that's all in the past, and the title of Nichols' latest album, "It's All Good," sums up the singer's state of mind.
"Everything is in front of me," he told Billboard.com. "I make my mind up every day to be happy, and I've put people around me that help in that mission. I'm happy with the music I'm doing, and happy that God has given me the opportunity that he gives me."
Nichols said the album has a positive and upbeat feel that runs parallel to his outlook on life. "It's a nice mixture of songs. We've got a lot of love on this record. I'm really happy with the songs."
Nichols is especially pleased with the title cut, which hearkens back to the 1980s. "It's retro Country. It feels like something of a throwback -- not so much in an obvious way, but it feels classic."
The song sounds like a George Strait cut circa 1985. That's a comparison that Nichols appreciates.
"George has been an influence on me. I can look back at anything he has ever done, and that's made me want to do what I'm doing now. Take "Lefty's Gone," - such an amazing song about Lefty Frizzell. A lot of his earlier stuff is just classic to me," he admits.
Nichols knows a classic when he hears it. Songs like "The Impossible" and "I'll Wait For You" have helped to make him one of radio's most played and respected artists over the past decade. A song that could very well join that list is "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You."
"It's a very flattering song," he says of the track. "It feels good, it's very complimentary to the girl you're singing to. It's about a guy who says 'No matter what's going on in the world, I wish I could see it, but the problem is I can't take my eyes off of you.' I think women like that." The cut also features Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski.
The album's first single, "Take It Off," has been steadily climbing the charts since being released to radio. He says the song takes him back to a simpler time.
"It takes me back to when I was a kid, and we would go out to the lake or the river and chill out all day. We'd do some stuff that we weren't supposed to be doing," he says.
Nichols' wry wit and wisdom has made him a favorite of interviewers everywhere. That has led to several opportunities to showcase that personality, such as his recent hosting duties during the Academy of Country Music Honors ceremonies in Nashville. Would he like to do more of that? "Probably," he says, but admits that "I think the hardest thing to do is be funny when you're told to be funny. When they ask you to be yourself, that's something I can do. I do it everyday. It's something I think about in the future. My number one thing is making music, and singing my songs."
Joe recently took those songs around the globe to Australia. Of the trip, he said "It went great. The fans over there are outstanding. We plan on going back as soon as possible. It's a really cool experience. They've got a wonderful country fan base."
Nichols hopes that "It's All Good" will be a start of a new chapter in his career, following the release of his first Greatest Hits project. "I think it's another step forward. I definitely embrace the music we've done in the past, and the success we've had. I can't wait to see what lies ahead of us, and rise to whatever challenge is in front of us, and hopefully in a few years' time, we'll be talking about another Greatest Hits album. That's always the goal, anyway."
Speaking of goals, Nichols is also keeping his fingers crossed for his Arkansas Razorbacks, who are having a stellar season (currently 8-1). He says he'll be cheering them on the rest of the way. "I think they can go as far as the defense can take them," he says. "If they play decent defense the rest of the way, they could wind up being 10-1 and facing LSU. If they could somehow beat that defense, I think it would be the most special year in about fifty years here."